Top tips for how to balance revision and riding

For anyone else who is at university or college, or even at school you will know the difficult balancing act of trying to make sure you put enough effort into your exams and enough time into revision for these exams alongside trying to make sure your horse gets enough attention, love and care from you, and exercise too. Here's how I try to make sure that even though I put revision ahead of my horse, I still get my horse exercised and happy. 

#1: Give more days off - although I really don't like giving Vallu too many days off, during exam times I am more than happy to give him 3 days off a week so that it ends up that he's in work every other day. It's enough  to keep him safe and sane, but it also gives me more time to revise. And I'm pretty sure Vallu doesn't mind being turned out for six hours stuffing his face with grass ;)

#2: Do fun stuff - when you do ride, don't do training sessions because more than likely you'll be stressed and it won't go well. Instead do something fun. I've been hacking out and riding in the fields, so that Vallu gets his exercise, and it will be fun for you both and a de-stressing moment for you.
#3: Use the time at the yard to relax, but if you've got a spare moment use the time to revise. I've spent many hours in Vallu's field when he's been turned out doing revision. I have no distractions thanks to having no wifi, and the calm atmosphere helps me concentrate. 



What to do when you when you've had a hard lesson the day before and cannot face riding in the indoor again, but you don't want to lunge because you did that the day before the lesson and you don't want to go for a proper hack on your own? Well obviously go for a walk, trot and canter round the massive field at the back of the yard!  The more we do this, the more fun it is every time. Vallu has learnt to canter fast but not in an out of control way so that I can stay relaxed and enjoy myself, and he then doesn't get fought with about the pace of the canter. It's so much fun that I have started looking forward to going out to the fields! ♥︎ 
I'm hoping to get someone to take photos of us doing this next week so that I have evidence of me being brave ;) 


Dressage lesson with Brooksby Dressage: Love your left rein

Another fantastic lesson recap. Vallu was on top form, that kind where you want to carry on working on everything because the horse is just giving you 110%. 
This is just normal working trot and LOOK AT THAT FRONT LEG
I have two big pieces of homework. Firstly the walk, which is definitely Vallu's weakest pace and improving it is vital to getting better marks - think shoulder-fore but with the neck straight. DO NOT let him drift behind leg, make sure he is marching forwards to prevent him for curling around and getting a dodgy with his walk. Then, I must must must sort out our transitions, especially walk to trot transitions where I get canter very easily instead! Trot to walk must be a 'forwards transition' as in Vallu cannot just lurch into walk underneath me, he has to slow down from trot to walk where the walk is going forwards...
The trot is much better than before, it's more in front of my leg and not over reacting when I ask him to activate his hind legs more, and I am 'allowed' to adjust the trot more without any temper tantrums. All of this is massive progress when compared to our previous lesson, and light years away when looking back at our first lesson. But now that we're both thinking more forwards, we're now focusing on getting from good and 3rd gear, to very good and finding that 4th gear in trot. To help get there I need to remember to love my left rein which is so vital in getting that big 4th gear trot out of him by ensuring that he is straight. And when I say he is straight, in reality it means that I need to have prepared well in the corner beforehand, activated his hind legs and made sure that he is on both reins - make sure that I have an equal amount in my left rein it is not allowed to be 'empty' so that I can turn him onto the diagonal with my left outside rein.

Lili is determined to get us a good medium and extended trot, despite my protests that this horse doesn't trot well and that I don't know how to ride him in order to improve it. And oh how a good trainer can you get you to improve, I must admit that now even I'm starting to get excited about these movements as I can feel him really moving his front legs and coming through his back whilst staying soft and supply through the neck and the mouth. I now have lots of little tricks to help us improve the medium trot, but the newest one is thinking that: “'legs saying canter whilst hands saying walk' for a short while to increase the engagement." So lovely to see that what I'm feeling above the saddle is looking good in the photos too!
Horse or giraffe? ;)
Cooling down at 8.15pm! Last ones on the yard
From our last lesson I can feel that the relationship is starting to change a bit, as in Vallu is starting to take me a bit more seriously and accepting what I ask for, and I am starting to expect this from him and trust in both of us that we can do it. Next lesson is in a few weeks and before that I have my exams, Vallu has the physio and I'm away for 3 day back home in Finland so I have to make every riding session before that count!



On Saturday this was my hacking out partner! Lulu is one the lovely mares at the yard, who is a 15hh cob so she's a bit smaller than Vallu ;) but she's a dream to ride as she's a hunter and a hunter so has seen and dealt with everything and I don't have to worry about anything with her. There were so many times during this hack that I was like "thank god I'm not riding Vallu" and so glad to be an experienced mare that wasn't bothered at all about traffic, combine harvesters and tractors, kids, dogs, other horses etc. I'm so grateful that I have yard friend who are willing to let me ride their horses and trust me enough with them. 
There's some really beautiful sights close by the yard
Never been hacking out on the smallest horse before
 Vallu had to cope with being ridden in the indoor trying to get back into the swing of things. He lost his shoe Tuesday evening (after being ridden) and luckily the farrier fixed him Thursday evening so he only really got two days off - and lots of turn out so it didn't bother him at all! We have a lesson next Wednesday and I really need to get us both supple and quick thinking - we've had so many light weeks due to the physio, dentist and now Vallu losing his shoe that we really aren't on top form, although Vallu is feeling a lot better and happier than before the physio. Luckily I know Lili won't mind and it will be a good kick up the bum to get us back on track. 

What Vallu thinks of being worked
Friday and Sunday was spent getting used to trotting and cantering on the fields and I'm happy to report that we had no unplanned dismounts, even though Vallu once stopped mid stride in trot to put his head to eat grass and my face collided with his neck. I really want someone to come take photos/videos of this, because it is another big achievement for me. We've even managed to attempt going slightly faster than a collected canter so maybe one day we might even manage to do gallop ;)


Back on Track mesh rug

The physio recommended that Vallu would more than likely benefit from some sort of magnetic/ceramic rug for him to wear to help his back - especially during the winter. All of our horses use Back on Track products, Vallu has the leg wraps for both front and back legs as do Rama and Basse back home. Rama also has this rug and as mum thinks it's very useful and effective on him, so we thought Vallu could be benefit from it too.

 The Back on Track products work because "the textile is a synergy of ancient Chinese experience and modern scientific textile technology. During the manufacturing of polyester- or polyester fibres, the ceramic particles are fused into the fibres. When heated, the ceramic particles radiate a heat back towards the body. This reflected heat is long-wave heat radiation, which is also known as long wave infrared radiation." It fits him really well, and I was pleasantly surprised by this as Vallu is a difficult horse to find rugs that fit him well because of his broad shoulders and big wide neck.


 And he only had the rug on for about 45 minutes before riding but he must have felt super well because when I turned him out in the paddock after riding he ran around and pulled a shoe off... Sigh, after the physio and the dentists and he still wants days off! I think he thinks he should be on holiday or retired! ♥︎
So well trained, it just stood there for 10 minutes and didn't move :D


What have you learnt from your horse?

"Every horse has something to teach. Every person has something to learn. Find out what you can learn from your horse." 

Someone shared this quote and it resonated with me, mainly because it got me thinking about how much I have learnt with Vallu. With him, it's not just with learning about riding - he's also taught me about trust, bravery, love and strength.

Looking back at where we started from and how far we have come, this horse has taught me a lot and I guess that I've had a lot to learn too. He's taken me from an elementary level naive young girl to an advanced level rider that has managed to transform a scared spooky horse into a lovely little cuddle bear. We have a wonderful bond, and nowadays I can feel that he trusts me. He's also taught me that every horse needs enough love and care, and from there they can bloom into a wonderful and trusting partner. For example, on Thursday we went for our second hack in a week, and despite heavy traffic, galloping horses in fields, puddles, wooden bridges and road work signs we had a lovely hack, Vallu behaved really well and relaxed. Four years ago this wouldn't have been possible, as neither he nor I was ready for it. But I've learnt to believe in him, he's taught me to trust him and we're both better versions of ourselves since when we first started working together.

What has your horse taught you?

Funny how having a dissertation proposal and a 3.5k data analysis essay with a presentation to do can kill any hint of inclination to write a blog post. This post has been as a draft for over a week just waiting for my to actually write it, and now that Vallu is having two days off (he just had the dentist today) I'm not so rushed and tired so that I've had time to finally write it. 


So proud!

Either I am just imaging things, but Vallu really does feel better now that he's back in work after the physio :) The left canter that has always been more difficult and slightly uncomfortable to sit to is now really soft, and he's finding stretching forwards in the trot a lot easier too... Having a week of only light riding has also been really good for myself, since I've had time to focus on how I am riding - little things like right elbow needs to be closer to my body and that my feet shouldn't be too deep in the stirrups. I'm really excited to see if Lili can see anything different during our next lesson next week!
The bridlepath took us through a field with cows in it :D 
 To celebrate this, and to enjoy our Bank Holiday Monday we went for another hack. And I forgot my draw reins, so this was my very first hack with no draw reins(!!) and it was very relaxing and enjoyable. I said to my friend that it's lovely to finally be able to hack out like normal people do with Vallu. We managed to cope with gates, cows, joggers with loose dogs, cars, vans, horse lorries and cyclists without any spooking. Much more of this please ♥︎
How Vallu likes to spend his afternoons